The real story behind Turkey's ‘protective equipment’ scandal with UK - MEHMET ACET

The real story behind Turkey's ‘protective equipment’ scandal with UK

For three days, British media published reports regarding “medical aid from Turkey.” Then, these reports started to turn into a media discourse that made us think, “Are Turks trying to make it difficult?”

After speaking to a top-level official in Ankara who has all the details of the subject, I realized that there was an extremely intriguing story to it.

Here are some example subheadings from those news reports:

- 'Enormous strain' on protective kit for NHS (BBC)

- 84-ton delivery the UK announced it is getting from Turkey will be “delayed.” (BBC Turkish)

- 24-hour delay in Turkish aid supplies could stop nation’s health system. (Daily Mail)

As can be seen, these reports state that the U.K. ordered a large amount of protective equipment from Turkey (400,000 protective gowns), but they had not been able to reach the U.K. on time.

After reading this, do you not have the impression that every stone was overturned and all meetings held, but regardless, there is somebody in Ankara making things difficult?


Yet the top-level Turkish official in Ankara whom I spoke to has a different version to tell. It appears that at the time these articles were published in U.K. press, no contact was made with Ankara through official authorities.

It is said:

“When these reports came out in the British press, the Health Ministry and Foreign Ministry in Ankara were shocked. The fact is that neither ministry had any knowledge of such an issue. In other words, nobody from British authorities had made any contact with Turkish authorities.”

As Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated in a similar crisis with Spain in early April, the export of protective medical products in Turkey is subject to the approval of the Health Ministry.

The communique published in the official gazette on March 4 includes the export of protective gowns, which are of medical nature, in the same scope.


If this is the case, how are such affairs expected to be carried out?

Since the export of medical supplies is subject to the approval of the Health Ministry, relevant British authorities should establish communication through the Health Ministry or Foreign Ministry to make their request for approval.

But that is not what they did.

They made no contact with Ankara. Instead, as we mentioned above, they acted in such a way and took advantage of this issue, turning it into a tool of pressure.

These latest developments and the matter taking place in the media alone without the U.K. administration establishing any communication with Ankara, and acting with the assumption that this will then turn into a tool of pressure disturbed the Turkish authorities. U.K. Ambassador to Turkey Dominick Chilcott was called through the Foreign Ministry and asked “if this is how these affairs are handled.” (The Health Ministry on Monday approved the delivery of these supplies to U.K.)


This issue with the U.K. can be considered similar to the “respiratory device” crisis with Spain earlier this month.

As confirmed by the authority I spoke with, it was almost exactly the same.

At a time when an aircraft full of supplies from Turkey had reached the country, the Spanish press had broadcasted critical news reporting that the 116 respiratory devices ordered from Turkey had not been delivered. Then the matter was somehow resolved. However, I would like to draw your attention to the following statement Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had made during those days:

“Some firms in Turkey, despite knowing the regulations concerning exports, are meeting the demands from different countries to earn a lot more money or signed agreements rather than directing them to the Health Ministry.”

What does this statement mean?

It means that Turkish firms concerned with earning an extra buck in such a climate may be resorting to this cunning method to bypass the Health Ministry’s approval.

The current course of affairs shows that Turkey’s medical supply capacity is enough for its own patients.

If this was not the case, such cunning action would not be credited either.

However, this method that was first implemented by Spain and later the U.K. may be an option for other countries too from now on.

Hence, the first thing that needs to be done might be to take a path that will make sanctions aimed at companies producing medical supplies such as masks, respiratory devices and protective gowns an option.

The criticality of the current times is obvious. The priority is Turkey’s needs first, then other countries.


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